Carcass composition and quality and eating quality of the m. longissimus dorsi (LD) were compared in 15 entire male (ram) and 15 female (ewe) pure bred Dorset Down lambs (carcass weight range 12 to 23 kg).
Rams grew 28 g/day faster than ewes, taking on average 2 weeks less to achieve 35 kg live weight. At the mean carcass weight of 16-8 kg, ram carcasses contained more lean (42 g/kg carcass weight) and bone (19 g/kg) and less fat (subcutaneous, 33 g/kg; intermuscular, 28 g/kg; perirenal-retroperitoneal, 14 g/kg) than ewe carcasses.
At the same level of fat cover in the commercially prepared side, ewe carcasses required more trimming of subcutaneous fat than rams. However, there was more intermuscular fat (which is not removed by conventional cutting) in the ewes; consequently their saleable meat contained 51 g/kg more fat and 37 g/kg less lean than that from rams.
The roast LD was invariably tender and the eating quality of LD from rams was as desirable as that from ewes, while overall eating quality compared favourably with that of animals studied previously. There was no evidence of an undesirable sexual odour or flavour in ram meat.
With early maturing breeds, which can be finished off grass, non-castration of entire males offers the opportunity of improving the efficiency of lean meat production whilst retaining good carcass and eating quality.